As part of my graduate studies, I had to enroll in a class that focused on children’s literature from different cultures. It was not a class that I had high hopes about, but I was pleasantly surprised! For instance, did you know that your local public library carries an array of children’s books that focus on Middle Eastern and African cultures? I was not aware of this until my class assigned me a scavenger-type hunt of books that reflected different cultures. Many of the books I located had won several high-profile awards. You definitely have to search I think this is a fabulous way to celebrate diversity. As an adult, many of the stories were captivating.
I definitely brainstormed on how to bring this content to my own students. I actually ended up creating a similar scavenger hunt for them, although we focused on one culture or location per week. I was amazed that students who were not normally be reading enthusiast were enthralled with these books from different cultures. In particular, I remember one student whose interest was in anime perking up when we covered the Japanese culture. Not much else had interested him up to that point, so when I noticed his interest, I knew I had found an “in” to this student.
Using the cross-cultural books allows you to teach across the curriculums of literature and social studies. As always, I recommend incorporating some type of cooking activity. Nothing gets student attention quite like eating. I would suggest inviting co-workers and parents to attend. You could also collaborate with your school media specialist to design a selection of activities centered around specific books. As part of my teaching, I always like to have students document similarities and differences between the culture we are exploring and our own. For extended learning, you could have your more advanced students rewrite the book using their own cultural beliefs and practices.
Big Universe would be a great avenue to explore these books in your classroom. If you are unsure what type of books to begin with, a simple Google search of “Cross-cultural children’s books” is what I suggest. When I did this myself, I noticed that both the New York Public Library and University of Wisconsin had children’s books listed by geographic areas. These are just two examples of the multitude listed. Have you ever explored cross-cultural children’s books? How did you incorporate it into your classroom?